A musical portrait of Paris in the late 50s/early 60s years of the new wave. From jazz and soundtracks to bossa nova, folk and cha cha, this set brings you the unique sound of French pop during the Nouvelle Vague years. Featuring pop songs by Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy and Claude Nougaro as well as instrumentals from the Nouvelle Vague soundtracks (including The 400 Blows, Breathless, Lola, Cleo From 5 to 7) and a cool mix of rare tracks by Rita Cadillac (an ex of Alain Delon), Christiane Legrand and the jazz vocal groups Les Blue Stars. Compiled by French Music connoisseur Matt Robin and featuring 40 tracks and an essay with track by track analysis from French journalist Jacques Denis.
PJ Harvey is the kind of rarely accomplished artist about whom it could be said never makes the same record twice. But Hope Six is actually a strong sequel to 2011's Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake. Though the record and its stance courts a divisive response from critics and the public, her nearly unbroken streak of terrific LPs remains unassailable.
"Putting together The Hope Six Demolition Project must have been quite the ordeal: it involved inspiration from trips to Kosovo, Washington, D.C. and Afghanistan with photographer Seamus Murphy, and was recorded publicly as an art installation aptly titled Recording in Progress, where audiences were invited to witness the birth of Hope Six at London's Somerset House and gaze at the band through one-way mirrors as they played, performed and recorded. It was a decision that evokes the themes of this record: Harvey herself became a spectacle to scrutinize, just as Hope Six evokes the idea of observation from an outsider perspective, describing events but not having any impact upon them.
Compositionally, Hope Six is gorgeous, and features some of Harvey's best melodies yet. Perhaps because she worked with the same producers, it shares a sonic atmosphere with 2011's Let England Shake, making it sound something like a sister album to that release.
Throughout, The Hope Six Demolition Project is observational yet impartial, wanting to help yet feeling helpless. It's just art, and Harvey seems to know that, so though this majestic album confronts the harsh realities and truths of the world in a medium most can grasp, she seems to wonder, as I imagine we all do, what can be done besides penning a poem or singing a song.
In this way, The Hope Six Demolition Project implicates all of the Western world's complacency, making for a complex and challenging, though gorgeous, listen." - Exclaim!
A selection of rare funk and soul from America’s West Coast courtesy of the indefatigable archivists at ACE/Kent.
"There is a Californian myth of sun, sand and tanned blondes of both sexes enjoying a life of carefree exuberance. For black America, the Golden State offered a different dream and throughout the 20th century the lure of a booming economy attracted millions to the most populous state in the Union. Where there is money, an entertainment industry invariably appears to relieve people of it, and all over California– especially in Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Bay Area – clubs, bars and record labels sprang up. In the immediate post-WWII years these attracted black musicians from all over the country hoping to make their fortune.
The boom years of the 40s and 50s were followed by a decade when social problems from elsewhere in the country arrived to pierce the dream. Independent labels had a hard time competing with the resurgent majors and super-independents such as Imperial owned by white entrepreneurs. The black scene was pushed underground.
But with many years experience behind them, musicians, songwriters and record men continued doing what they were doing – forever hoping the next success, the big break, was on its way. Stevie Wonder was recording at the Record Plant; with a bit of luck, next it could be them. This is the spirit captured on “California Soul” – club singers, former doo woppers, bands of kids off the streets all hoping to break out of their day-to-day life. If it didn’t work out, at least make a living doing something they enjoyed.
We have an amazing selection of funk and soul contained within the 20 tracks. From the Soul Sensations’ ballad ‘When I Had You, Baby’ – one of the finest examples of harmony singing you will ever hear – to the raw street funk of Little Johnny Hamilton’s two-part ‘The Git Down’ and everything in between, this represents the best music coming out of California at the time. Who could ignore the exceptional ‘Butterfly’ by the Ballads or the Brenton Wood-composed ‘Strike’ by Union featuring the vocals of Gail Anderson.
Also present are some previously unreleased masterpieces, great Temptations-style vocal funk and club classics such as Brenda George’s ‘What You See Is What You’re Gonna Get’. Some of these artists went on to bigger things; others drifted away from the business when success didn’t come their way. I’d argue that what we have here is their finest work." - Dean Rudland - ACE Records
Saxophone virtuoso and Polaris Short List Nominee Colin Stetson takes on Henryk Gorecki's 3rd Symphony, a modern classical touchstone for post rockers and orchestras alike.
"It makes sense that, when interpreting Górecki’s most famous work, Stetson tempered his experimental urges and kept the the core of the 3rd Symphony intact. Melodically and rhythmically, there’s little difference between his version and the original, the alterations coming from additions, not subtractions. Even when blood and tissue coagulate to form a more muscular body, you’re able to see Górecki’s skeleton underneath. The first movement, “Lento — Sostenuto Tranquillo Ma Cantabile”, still relies on his doomed interplay between the double basses, a seemingly endless whirlpool whose currents widen with each cycle. But where Górecki’s arrangement rose into a waterspout using only strings, Stetson augments the strains of Sarah Neufeld and Rebecca Foon with foreboding guitar drones and the full drum kit of Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, formerly of Liturgy), amping up the dread and longing with black metal emotionalism.
This decidedly epic nature makes the rest of SORROW feel like something of a respite, despite the final two sections dealing with tragedies that are arguably more realistic than the Passion Play of the first. When the soothing yet melancholic vocal motif of “Tranquillissimo” starts riding on floor toms and Stetson’s saxes around the six-and-a-half-minute mark, we’re suddenly in more modern territory: ’80s soft rock by way of a dirge." - Consequence of Sound
"One of the greatest songwriting talents the UK has ever produced, Ray Davies was tremendously prolific right from his earliest days with the Kinks. His wry take on the British way of life was matched by uncanny melodic and commercial sensibilities, resulting in a body of work that remains unsurpassed. From ‘You Really Got Me’ on, the Kinks’ popularity and influence around the globe has been immeasurable, as ably demonstrated by the many covers of Davies’ songs.
“Kinked!” is an alternative celebration of the Kinks’ first decade, via the songs that “got away” when a surfeit of material was shopped by Davies’ publisher and management, both in the UK and overseas. These tunes include several signature items never officially recorded by the Kinks – ‘I Go To Sleep’, ‘This Strange Effect’, ‘All Night Stand’ – or often released well in advance of the Kinks’ own versions. The range of interpreters is wide, from pop-jazz chanteuse Peggy Lee and teen idol Bobby Rydell to Brit-girls the Orchids, UK mainstays the Pretty Things, sessioneer Nicky Hopkins, satirist Barry Fantoni, US garage punk avatars the Chocolate Watchband and R&B veterans the Olympics. Several cuts are previously unissued alternate versions / mixes or recent vault discoveries. “Kinked!” also gathers the known outside tracks to feature some or all of the Kinks as accompaniment, like the obscure ‘King Of The Whole Wide World’. And as writer, Kinks guitar slinger extraordinaire Dave Davies contributes one track, the rare beat pounder ‘One Fine Day.’" - Ace Records
A terrific, unassuming LP from a young singer/songwriter growing into his gifts.
"Singer-songwriter Kevin Morby’s third solo album reveals that, at 28, he’s an old head on young shoulders. When not sounding uncannily like Bob Dylan (Water), the former member of Brooklyn psych-folk outfit Woods is worrying about his mental powers (“Will I lose my mind?” he sings on Ferris Wheel) and evoking the Band’s warped Americana. There are allusions to the modern world – I Have Been to the Mountain tackles police brutality – but Morby’s serene folk-rock moves back and forth through time. Black Flowers, one of several tracks rooted in nature, typifies his songwriting prowess, its cryptic lyrics twinned with a gorgeous melody that is both pristine and familiar." - The Guardian
"Morby tossed out a red herring when he released Singing Saw’s first single, “I Have Been to the Mountain,” in January. Beyond referencing Martin Luther King, Jr., the song addresses Eric Garner’s death and police brutality. And with its gospel singers and molten guitar solo, it’s not only the best song on Singing Saw, but one of 2016’s best indie-rock tracks." - Entertainment Weekly
"Bradley is a soul survivor who came up the hard way, scratching out every break he ever got through a combination of working his tail off and perseverance. You can hear it in his voice, a magnificent, gravelly shriek that retains traces of the James Brown impersonation he used to do under the name Black Velvet. By now, at age 67, that electrifying voice has definitely become its own thing, and he inhabits the songs on his new album as if he lived them. He probably did: Bradley has said he comes up with lyrics on the spot, while the band vamps behind him, giving his words an especially heartfelt emphasis.
Like its predecessors No Time for Dreaming and Victim of Love, Changes is a strong entry into the canon of modern soul with a vintage heart. Even better is what the album represents for Bradley: after decades of struggle, the Screaming Eagle of Soul has come fully into his own." - Paste
Gram Parsons called his blend of country, rock, and soul "Cosmic American Music," a phrase that captured his hippie ethos: it was American music but it was mystic, an unnamable, unmistakable connective vibe that held together these 50 states...Unlike some of the other entries in Numero's Wayfaring Strangers, the fidelity on Cosmic American Music is better -- not as cheap and grungy -- but that suits the mellow sensibilities of these troubadours. Occasionally, there's a bit of kick to the rhythms -- Kenny Knight's "Baby's Back" grooves along nicely, Allan Wachs conjures a spooky highway anthem, Jeff Cowell's "Not Down This Low" feels sprightly, especially compared to its competition -- but usually these tunes float, feeling as if they were designed to soundtrack a vivid sunset. Such cinematic associations underscores how Cosmic American Music excels on vibe, not necessarily songs. This isn't damning with faint praise: the songs are often nice -- earnest, tuneful and well constructed, respecting the traditions they learned from the Byrds and Dylan -- but this isn't a collection of overlooked compositions, it's a bit of pop archeology, excavating records that feel right. Every one of these 19 cuts certainly does feel right, sounding sun-burned and blissed-out, embodying the hangover of the hippie dream." - Allmusic
"...And that’s what The Wilderness represents: In searching into the unknown, more possibilities have been uncovered. This is most exciting in the album’s briefer moments. Anyone who’s seen the band live knows that EITS refuse to do encores, blaming the time needed to get into the zone impossible to replicate within the confines of an abbreviated set. But on songs like “The Ecstatics,” which uses synthesized percussion and guitar strum textures as an evocative tool, and “Disintegration Anxiety,” which relies on the rhythm of the guitar leads, rather than the drums, to move it along, EITS prove its mastery of this new aim. Huge emotional payoffs are reached without requiring long songs to do it. With attention spans waning, and listeners’ need for instant gratification ever more real, the band doesn’t fight the times.
Explosions In The Sky have crafted an updated version of themselves that’s ready for 2016 ears without sacrificing the band’s identity. The record might divide some longtime fans, but it’s a necessary risk to take to ensure the band’s continued relevance." - AV Club
"Like so many of their peers, The Feelies made a stab at wider commercial appeal in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Fortunately for us, this move didn’t result in watered-down music. The band’s last two LPs (before a triumphant 21st century reunion), 1988’s Only Life and 1991’s Time For A Witness are classics — perhaps not quite as heralded as Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth, but classics nonetheless, showcasing The Feelies at their most locked-in and tuneful. Bar/None Records’ fresh CD/vinyl reissues of both (with some excellent studio/live bonus material added on as digital downloads) are great reminders of their lasting power...The Feelies saved their most infectious pop song for Time For A Witness: “Doin’ It Again” is a delight every time you hear it, riding a “Roadrunner”-y riff to the heavens. The rest of the album sees the band moving in somewhat more mainstream rock direction — The Feelies had done time as Lou Reed’s opening act, sure, but you can almost imagine them in this era winning over a Tom Petty crowd. But there was still room for exploration: one Witness‘ high point is the lengthy “Find A Way,” a slo-mo, psychedelic wonder that’s both pleasingly spacey and tightly wound. And the closing cover of The Stooges’ “Real Cool Time” is a righteous blast, the seemingly mild-mannered Feelies getting wild and loose in a way that even Iggy would approve of." - Aquarium Drunkard
"As time moves on and the genuine bluesmen slip into historical archives, it is a cause for celebration when someone makes the effort to reconstruct the music of one of the true innovators in the blues genre. Produced by Jeffrey Gaskill, God Don't Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson, is a contemporary tribute to this seminal slide guitarist who was also unique in his imaginative vocal interpretations and compositions of gospel blues. Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) recorded thirty tracks for the Columbia label between 1927 and 1930 in sessions done in Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta, preceding the heralded recordings of blues guitarist/composer Robert Johnson in San Antonio, by nine years. Though his songs have not had the influence and impact of Robert, Blind Willie has left an enduring legacy which is carried on by modern slide guitarists and gospel singers.
It is of course the job of the producer to get the right people for such an undertaking, and this project is no exception. Tom Waits opens with "The Soul of a Man," a raucous holy roller that brings to mind the fire and brimstone preachers who know how to shake up the congregation. "Nobody's Fault But Mine," possibly Johnson's best known and most covered song is given the royal treatment by Lucinda Williams, who possesses one of the most distinctive voices in music. Derek Trucks is widely recognized as a brilliant slide player, and he is joined by his wife Susan Tedeschi handling the vocals on "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning," which eases into "Jesus Is Coming Soon," by the Cowboy Junkies. The Blind Boys of Alabama, were the obvious choice for "Motherless Children Have A Hard Time," and they deliver a soul shaking rendition." - All About Jazz
"Mould’s marriage of fury and melody harks back as far as the Hüsker Dü days, but he sounds far past the point of letting his anger control him the way that band used to. Patch The Sky sounds like a healthier release, the work of someone with a better handle on his dark forces. The new romantic lean of “Losing Sleep” might grimly ponder the cosmos, but it’s also one of the purest pop songs he’s written in years. The fire-and-brimstone approach works as well here for Mould as ever, but he’s not completely fenced in by his noisy pedigree.
More than 35 years into the game, Mould is still hard at work on the tense, dynamic soundscapes some would argue he perfected long ago. But it’s his refusal to rest on his laurels that still makes his songs worth the listen. It’s fair to wonder how many more runs through the alternative-rock mill one guy will get, but ifPatch The Sky is any indication, Mould’s still a long way away from being on the clock." - AV Club
It's never too late to discover a great record, so jump into this reissue of one of our favourite songwriters, Kiwi indie giant and leader of the legendary Clean: it's David Kilgour's killer 1994 LP, Sugar Mouth!
"Some songs capture some of the gauzier feeling of Here Come the Cars thanks to the mixing and soft motorik chug ("Filter" in particular). "Crazy," meanwhile, bears hints of Kilgour's time in Snapper, loud and brash but similarly indebted to a refracted Krautrock drive. Others have an air that can only be described as clear and cool -- not cold, but there's something about the way the acoustic guitars and piano sound on "Beached," Kilgour's singing coming down through echo, or the concluding flow of "Never End" that suggests blue skies, deep oceans, and high peaks. Whether it's the acoustic-based strum and shimmer of "Fallaway," an anthem that never has to strain or sound oppressively big even in the slightest or the heart-tugging semi-waltzes of "Nail in My Foot" or "Recollection," Sugar Mouth is just plain fantastic, full stop." - All Music
Bold, adventurous, and surprisingly touching, this is the kind of LP that could win over everyone from a Prince nut, a Joni Mitchell devotee, a Miles lover, and a Spotify-surfer omnivore. Spalding closes her eyes, takes a massive leap forward, and lands it.
"The album focuses on her vocals, with their wily melodic turns, personal poetry, spoken-word chatters and skewed R&B hooks. But even if they are pop songs, a few could have been composed by Wayne Shorter, and Spalding’s voice has never sounded so assured in its dizzying ascents from mid-range murmurs to falsetto swoops. Her singing variously suggests Kate Bush, Janelle Monae or even a female Jack Bruce with a 21st-century Cream. Unconditional Love is an unconditionally terrific pop ballad (intensified by her thunderous bass guitar), while the weaving Earth to Heaven is a testament to how powerful that voice has become, and the unison bass and guitar ostinato of Funk the Fear is almost as compelling on record as it was live – but for the fact that Matthew Stevens’ exciting guitar playing gets faded much too early." - Guardian
"Like other hugely popular musicians before her who felt commercial pressures beginning to stunt their growth, Spalding has found an alter ego to speak to her more extroverted, creative side. Spalding sings through a muse named Emily, her middle name, though her reasons for doing so aren’t clear-cut. As a character, Emily wants you to buck the system, to fight for peace and tranquility. She wants you to reconnect with your spiritual center, to avoid facades. Emily "is a spirit, or a being, or an aspect who I met, or became aware of," Spalding recently told NPR. "I recognize that my job … is to be her arms and ears and voice and body." As a child, Spalding was curious about acting and created scenarios using movement and dance. So "in a sense," the musician recalled, "I see it as a flashlight into the future."
The theatrical D+Evolution plays like the culmination of those childhood performances. Spalding's voice retains its warmth and nuance, but she’s thrown herself into these songs with a new gusto. Each song has its own identity, from the unbroken spoken-word flow preceding "Ebony and Ivy," the fist-pumping call-and-response of "Funk the Fear," and the opera-infused histrionics of "I Want It Now." Recorded in front of a small studio audience in Los Angeles, you can almost see Spalding act out these songs as the band—comprised of guitarist and Christian Scott collaborator Matthew Stevens, producer/drummer Karriem Riggins, and others—create thick textures that provide plenty of space for her." - Pitchfork
The latest from the Italian modern classical composer, Elements is spare and daring — an excellent partner to directions explored by Max Richter.
"Elements is as breathtakingly beautiful and poignantly polarised as one would expect from one of this generation’s finest classical talents. While much of Ludovico Einaudi’s piano-heavy back catalogue is known by many from Shane Meadow’s This is England franchise, his more experimental material receives little exposure in comparison. An ever-growing presence in more recent releases, the Italian maestro continues his movement into the sphere of electronica with his latest 12-track offering – and with great effect.
Providing the perfect juxtaposition to the likes of the classically classical “ABC” and the all-enveloping opener “Petrichor”, tracks like “Numbers” show Einaudi’s other side, creating a tension that breeds a sense of depth and movement throughout. Nowhere is this more apparent than the emotive “Four Dimensions” – arguably one of the LP’s pinnacles – which is followed immediately by a bassline more suited to a certain Fleetwood Mac banger, forming the backbone of "Elements"." - Line Of Best Fit
No sophomore slump in sight on the second LP from Tuttle, a gorgeous nugget of understated psych guitar pop.
"There are lush, airy employments of guitar interplay throughout It Calls On Me that make it immediately listenable, full as it is of dueling octaves like an arpeggiated fencing match refereed by Peter Buck. Tuttle’s deft sense of classic melodies and textural experimentation lend a purposeful air to songs like the title track, itself a kind of possessed meditation in the strictest psychedelic sense. Meandering guitar leads and solos travel trippy sonic thoroughfares and wind in and out of structure but always land on their feet.
Tuttle’s rich, hushed vocals come in multi-layered harmonies, too, calling to mind a little more than a passing homage to the easy-breezy, paisley-swathed guitar-pop of groups like The Byrds, The Moon and other similarly heavy-lidded psychsters of yesteryear. Pronounced, plucky bass lines, strings and keys add to the mystique, as Tuttle’s compositions more often than not occupy zone-out realms." - Paste Magazine
"Leaving the noise and relentless energy of the city behind, TEEN retreated into the nurturing stillness of Nova Scotia, the Lieberson sisters’ childhood home. Situated on the La Have River, the studio was hidden in a perpetual mist while the band recorded day and night. Fueled by new material, a change of place, and creative collaboration, the lull of the winter lifted and the band came together in a new way. Teaming up once again with producer Daniel Schlett, TEEN wanted to capture the energy of full band recording. Rather than multi-tracking, Schlett worked with the band as they played the songs relentlessly, waiting to achieve the right energy and take as a group.
The result is a beautiful, detailed album about womanhood and the embodiment of the sensual, played by a group fully in step with one another. Love Yes bursts into the static air with a vibrancy recognized by its confidence and power." - Carpark
"Certain artists raise a simple question: Can you blame someone for making the same album over and over again if that album is always really good? AC/DC, The Ramones, and Motörhead have all implored listeners to ask that question, and there’s a strong case to be made that M. Ward does as well. For over 15 years, he’s been giving the world reliably beautiful, thoughtful folk music that seems like it was transported to present day from, say, 1939. His latest album, More Rain, is no exception to the rule. But while listeners know what they’re getting with M. Ward by now, that doesn’t make the results any less enthralling...To be clear, More Rain is far from identical to Ward’s previous releases. While his signature sound is undoubtedly intact, little flourishes separate it from the pack. Namely, this album is a bit more willing to embrace electronic instruments than past efforts. “I’m Going Higher” features an enthralling guitar solo, while “Girl From Conejo Valley” is quite possibly the first M. Ward song to use a synth. None of this would be quite enough to get Ward’s fans to yell “Judas!” when he busts these songs out live, but they do represent a rare willingness from Ward to leave his comfort zone." AV Club
"Ace's 2016 compilation Saint Etienne Present: Songs for the Carnegie Deli is a pop music lover's Valentine to their imagined New York City: what Londoners Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs always dreamed the Big Apple to be. Aficionados of '60s singles that they are, the pair rely heavily on Brill Building pop and uptown soul for their 24-track compilation. Heavy on girl groups and grooving soul, this collection moves along and if there are some familiar names here -- Chuck Jackson, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Lesley Gore, and the Shirelles are among the featured acts -- Stanley and Wiggs rely on deep cuts, so this winds up having a familiar feel but a fresh kick: it stays true to the ideals of a sophisticated, swinging city." - All Music Guide
"Known for having an impeccable knowledge and contagious enthusiasm for music, a collector and fan through and through, Bobby has compiled an album for Ace based on mood and atmosphere, building something both incredibly personal and totally universal. He finds the sadness in the sunshine pop of the Beach Boys and isn’t afraid to have three of their tracks in a row, to enjoy that melancholy. He finds the 1970s punk attitude in one-time cleancut doo wopper Dion, the politics in Link Wray and the sex in Kris Kristofferson. It’s as much a reappraisal of these artists as a love letter to them, putting them in a new context and holding a different mirror to their faces.
His sleeve-notes take you on a mapped journey, from him as a young punk gig-goer in Glasgow, seeing Suicide supporting the Clash where they had an axe thrown at them, to meeting his heroes on an equal footing both on and off stage, through to gazing at the fragile people gone too soon. It’s a paean to loving music." - Ace Records